Madrid - Real Madrid is facing an unusually important home opener in the Spanish league, needing a convincing win over Real Betis on Saturday to avoid talks of an early crisis.
It will be only Real Madrid's second game, but anything but a victory could potentially lead to trouble for the rest of the season.
The world's richest sports club entered the season with high expectations but was held to a scoreless draw at newly promoted Sporting Gijon in the first round, while rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid got off to a winning start and opened an early lead in the standings.
Another setback at the Santiago Bernabeu could put new coach Rafa Benitez under pressure early in his stint with the club.
The team's slow start is already giving opponents added encouragement. Real Betis players said they will travel to Madrid more motivated after seeing Benitez's team struggle at Gijon.
"We saw that Sporting had a positive result against Real the other day," former Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan said. "It's difficult to do well at the Bernabeu, but if it was impossible we wouldn't even go there. Every year there is some type of surprise there, so why can't that happen to us?"
Betis opened with a 1-1 draw at Villarreal thanks to an equalizer by striker Ruben Castro near the end of the game at the Benito Villamarin Stadium.
Real Madrid's powerful attack led by Cristiano Ronaldo failed in the opener, missing chance after chance in Gijon. But Benitez's offense will be boosted Saturday by the addition of Karim Benzema, who is likely to be fit after nursing a muscle injury that kept him out of the first game. Gareth Bale, who had been doubtful because of a toe injury, is also set to play, keeping the attack at full strength.
"We know that this is just the beginning," Benitez said. "We have to keep improving."